Four lakh artefacts available for viewing at your fingertips

More than 4 lakh artefacts with their descriptions will be available for public viewing at the click of a mouse by the year end, with the Culture Ministry working to launch a web portal to showcase country’s rich cultural treasures preserved at government-funded museums.

Nine museums, including the National Museum in New Delhi, the Indian Museum and the Victoria Memorial Hall in Kolkata, the Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad and the Allahabad Museum have already begun work to this end.

A special software—“Jatan”—has been developed by the Centre for the Development of Advanced Computing (C-Dac) in Pune to implement a single database and taxonomic system to catalogue the collections with museums across the country.

The proposed web portal will also showcase artworks preserved at the National Galleries of Modern Arts in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.

The ministry is keen on showcasing all the collections of artefacts and antique works of art preserved at 52 museums funded by government in a couple of years, said a senior official. “The process of documentation and digitisation of the artefacts is going on at nine museums that we have selected in the first phase. We want to have an outreach of our museums beyond a city.

They should reach out to people in a systematic manner where they can look at all the artefacts and read their details,” said Culture Ministry secretary Ravindra Singh at a joint press conference with President and Director of Art Institute Chicago Douglas Druick.
Such a database, accessible over the internet, will also help tourists plan their visits to these museums accordingly, he added.

The development of the software by C-Dac is the outcome of ministry’s engagement with Chicago’s Art Institute over the last two years. The ministry asked C-Dac model the software after the one being used at the Chicago institution to provide people with greater access to their collections.

With the launch of the web portal, India will become the first country to have adopted a single searchable database program across all its national museums. In many countries, such software are used by museums individually.

However, while this digitisation is a refined idea, it has also triggered a fear of less visitors at museums.

“We have observed that over time, familiarity with images breeds desire. Once people know the image, they wish to encounter it. The best example of this is the Mona Lisa.

People have seen her pictures—they are so common—yet many people visit the Louvre Museum (in Paris) to see it. This is not going to take people away from museums; it will bring them closer,” said Druick.

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